Summary: God is the Creator of valleys because the Father knows best that we grow most in the green grass of low places in our lives. Take a deep drink of Psalm 23:4 as Dr. Larry Petton challenges us with the question: Can you trust the Shepherd?
Psalm 23 is the most popular chapter of the Bible. It has been shared at funerals, deathbeds, hospitals and in places of worship for over 2000 years. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature known to man.
Harriet Ward Beecher once said, “Psalm 23 has charmed more griefs to rest than all the philosophy of the world. It has remanded to their dungeon more felon thoughts, more black doubts, more thieving sorrows, than there are sands on the sea–shore. It has sung courage to the army of the disappointed. It has poured balm and consolation into the heart of the sick.”
Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher and theologian from England, said about this great chapter that
“Psalm 23 is the Nightingale of the Psalms.” The nightingale is a rare bird that sings its love songs during the darkest night just as this wonderful writing whispers hope into our hearts in the midst of the valleys of life.
Psalm is divided into three parts:
First David takes us into the Glen.
Then he takes us down into the Gorge.
And, finally, on to the Glory.
In the first part of the psalm he introduces us to One who can take care of our Frailty; then to the One who can take care of our Foes; and finally to the One who can take care of our Future.
But, of all the ways we can divide this psalm, this is the best: "The secret of a happy life, a happy death, a happy eternity.”
It’s interesting to note that each of the Old Testament names for Jehovah is seen in this Psalm:
Jehovah-Jireh – “The Lord will provide” (Gen. 22:13-14).
Jehovah-Rapha – “The Lord will heal or restore” (Ex. 15:26).
Jehovah-Shalom – “The Lord our peace” (Judges 6:24)
Jehovah-Tsidkenu – “The Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6)
Jehovah-Shammah – “The Lord is there” (Ezek. 48:35)
Jehovah-Nissi – “The Lord our banner” (Ex. 17:8-15)
Jehovah-Rohi – “The Lord my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1).
It is a familiar idea throughout the Bible, that the Lord is a Shepherd to His people. The idea begins as early as the Book of Genesis, where Moses called the Lord the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (Genesis 49:24).
In Psalms 28:9 David invited the Lord to shepherd the people of Israel to bear them up forever.
Isaiah 40:11 tells us that the Lord will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm.
THE SHEPHERD TRILOGY
It is significant that Psalm 23 is situated where it is in Scripture. Psalms 22-24 are known as the Shepherd Trilogy because these three chapters point to the three-fold Shepherd ministry of Jesus Christ to His followers.
Psalm 22 – Jesus is the GOOD SHEPHERD who died for the sheep. This chapter is a portrait of the Cross and begins with the famous quote of the Savior as he died for our sins on Calvary: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” It is a foreshadowing of the Savior who died for His sheep as He said of Himself in John 10:11: “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Ps. 23 – Jesus is the GREAT SHEPHERD who lives for the sheep. All of the verbs in Psalm 23 are in the present tense, describing the One who lives for His sheep and takes care of their every need. He can lead us through the “valley of the shadow of death” because He has conquered death by His resurrection from the grave to prove that He is God in the flesh! The writer of Hebrews spoke of Jesus the Great Shepherd as a fulfilment of this prophetic chapter:
Hebrews 13:20: “Now may the God of peace, who, through the blood of the eternal covenant, brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep.”
Ps. 24 – Jesus is the CHIEF SHEPHERD who returns for the sheep. Psalm 24 ends with a question: “Who is this King of Glory?” Then, David, supplies the answer of the heart of every true believer in Christ: “Let Him come in!” Clearly, this is a portrait of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, will one day come to this earth and reign as King. The first time He came to suffer and die for our sins. The second time He is coming to reign as Sovereign King. The Lamb will one day be the Lion!
Simon Peter points to that great day when Jesus shall return to set up His Kingdom on the Earth in I Peter 5:4: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who DIED for the sheep.
Jesus is the Great Shepherd who LIVES for the sheep.